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Middle Eastern food stand in Jerusalem with bread and falafel.

You can get there from here. ~ Natasha Trethewey

Pistachios, dates, cardamom, tahini, black limes, herbs of all sorts, lots of lamb, olives, and . . . well, olive oil. 

What delicious memories do these staples of Mediterranean cooking conjure up for you?

For me, it used to be my freshman year, at Syracuse University. 

That’s where I (happily) fell in with a group of Kuwaiti students who introduced me to Middle Eastern food. 

I transferred out for the warmer climes of Northern California after that first year, but not before gaining an enduring affection for hummus, stuffed grape leaves, and other foods necessary for survival in a civilized world.

Now, since our trip to Israel, the memories include the aroma of fresh bread dipped in hyssop and daily servings of the freshest fish

Fresh Tilapia

What to do with these yearnings so far from those eastern deserts and the sea?

Memorize the routes to your nearest Whole Foods and international food stores ~ and get creative with your activities: 

1) Watch a favorite movie set in the Middle East ~ Ben-Hur and the one about the legendary racing horse, Hidalgo, are two of mine. 

And when the inevitable feast-scene comes around and the characters start stuffing their faces with pomegranates and fresh dates

Chilled, fresh dates

join them in a feast of your own with dates dipped in tahini ~ ground sesame seed paste.

Dates Dipped in Tahini

I’ve never needed a movie to enjoy this combo, though ~ an idea from Thanx, Elham!

2) The next time you feel like making a ham or turkey sandwich, don’t. Make falafel with pita bread instead. Aside from the chickpeas you fry to make the balls of falafel, you likely have most if not all of the ingredients in your home right now. 

Falafel, peppers, & pita bread

Onions, eggplant, tomatoes, cilantro, garlic, cumin and peppers, green bell peppers and the kind to make it as harif ~ spicy ~ as you like.

Eggplant & falafel

Oh, yeah.

3) And when it’s time to give yourself a treat, force your eyes away from the chocolate truffles and cheesecake and order a sweet and crispy baklava instead. (If it has been in the fridge, wait until it reaches room temperature before the first bite. You’ll be glad you did!)

Golan Heights Baklava


What movie or foods come to mind when you think about the Middle East?